Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear joins suit challenging Trump's health care order

Posted at 11:19 AM, Oct 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-14 11:19:47-04

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Kentucky’s Democratic attorney general says he will join at least 19 other states in a lawsuit to block Republican President Donald Trump’s order ending a provision of the Affordable Care Act that lowered out-of-pocket medical costs for some consumers.

In a news release, Andy Beshear said his decision is “about making the federal government keep its promises.” He says that if Trump’s decision is left unchallenged, it could increase health care rates on some Kentucky families by 20 percent.

“This lawsuit isn’t about the president at all. It’s about our Kentuckians deserving health care they can afford and the federal government keeping its word,” Beshear said in a video posted to his Twitter account.

RELATED: Trump begins Obamacare dismantling with executive order

Trump wants to end a provision of former President Barack Obama’s health care law that helps people in the individual insurance market use their insurance plans. People with certain income levels get help paying for out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays. These are known as cost-sharing-reduction payments.

While rates for individual health insurance plans sold on the federal exchange in Kentucky will increase next year, the state Department of Insurance says it won’t be because of Trump’s decision. That’s because when state officials approved those rate requests earlier this year, they assumed the cost-sharing-reduction payments would be eliminated.

“The Department does not anticipate any necessary action to change rates or the availability of plans,” said spokeswoman Elizabeth Kuhn.

A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin did not respond to a request for comment. Bevin has repeatedly said he opposes the health care law passed under Obama because it is too expensive and focuses too much on providing health insurance instead of incentivizing people to be healthy.

Trump’s decision will largely impact those in the state’s individual insurance market. For Kentucky, that’s about 88,000 people who purchased health plans through the federal exchange. A little more than half of them benefit from the cost-sharing-reduction payments, according to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.

Even if the federal government stops making the payments, insurance companies still have to help pay for people to use their insurance. Advocates fear that will prompt insurance companies to drastically raise premiums on everyone else in the individual market to help cover their costs.

That could affect people like Betsy Foster. When Foster lost her job four years ago, she moved to Kentucky and started her own business as a health care consultant. She could afford it, she said, because the health care law let her purchase an affordable individual insurance plan from the state’s health exchange.

She said Trump’s order to halt those federal payments to insurance companies puts her insurance, and her small business, in jeopardy. Without them, she said her monthly premiums could increase from about $600 a month to more than $1,000 a month.

“I would not have insurance anymore,” she said. “That would be over my head.”

Foster said she would most likely have to close her company and seek a full-time job for a bigger company that offers health insurance benefits. She’s not worried about having to start a new job, but she would mourn the loss of her company that she created and the freedom it gave her.

“I would be very upset about it,” she said.